A nurse draws a COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at the Saskatoon Tribal Council-run vaccination clinic inside SaskTel centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis

A nurse draws a COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at the Saskatoon Tribal Council-run vaccination clinic inside SaskTel centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis

West Boundary doc says she won’t be able to treat patients as deadline for vaccine looms

Good luck finding specialized health care in the region if doctor leaves, says health society president

A West Boundary doctor is telling patients she won’t be able to treat patients due to an incoming provincial health order mandating all medical health professionals to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Dr. Christine Simpson, an internal health specialist at the Rock Creek Health Centre (RCHC), wrote in a signed letter dated Feb. 16, stating, “I will not be able to practice as a physician in this province AT ALL!”

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Simpson’s letter contains sentences that also appear word-for-word in a letter signed by Lower Mainland doctor Sonia Bayfield, who emailed the letter to her patients at the North Shore Medical Group, according to media reports.

Simpson and Bayfield’s letters state, “Unfortunately, this order will pertain to me (despite having recovered from COVID myself), along with thousands of other health care workers who cannot be vaccinated for very legitimate reasons!”

Both letters state the doctors are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but do not explain why.

Although the doctors’ letters appear to be identitical, Simpson declined to comment on the similarities.

“The purpose of that letter was to notify my patients about what is happening to health care in the West Boundary and how they will be impacted by mandates related to COVID-vaccination,” she told The Gazette.

Provincial health officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order requires all medical health professionals in B.C. to report their COVID-19 vaccination status starting March 31, according to an information bulletin published by the Ministry of Health.

Simpson’s letter will be referred to the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons’ complaints and practice investigation department, according to a March 9 statement by the college.

“The college is firmly against the spread of misinformation about COVID-19,” the statement reads. “The College fully supports the PHO and will act as directed by her recent order requiring health regulators to verify the vaccine status of all registrants by March 31.”

A statement from the health ministry also defends the PHO’s order.

“It is critical that healthcare professionals do everything possible to protect the patients in their care and to inspire confidence in the province’s healthcare system. It is also critical that healthcare professionals protect their own health in order to continue providing health care to others during this challenging time,” the ministry explained.

Neither statement, nor the ministry’s bulletin says if there will be repercussions for doctors and surgeons who refuse to disclose their COVID-vaccination status. “The Order is only for the collection of vaccine status information at this time,” according to the college.

According to Rock Creek Community Medical Society President Harald Zinner, patients of RCHC would have to be referred to another specialist if the centre’s only doctor were to leave.

“The question is, where would they find one?” Zinner asked.

The centre’s internal medical specialist currently looks after patients from Grand Forks to Osoyoos, with some patients as far out as Kelowna, he said.

RCHC is already up against a shortage of medical professionals, especially as Midway is without a practicing physician. Aside from Simpson, a nurse practitioner offers in-person and tele-health appointments, with a social worker offering services two days a week, according to Zinner.


 

@ltritsch1
laurie.tritschler@grandforksgazette.ca

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laurie.tritschler@boundarycreektimes.com

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